Editor’s note: Henry Taliferro operated a mom-and-pop general store at 1013 Ely Street, Hannibal, and in 1988, the Courier-Post caught up with him for an interview.
FROM THE COURIER-POST FILES
Dec. 3, 1988
“We have a small amount of candy customers and they require a great deal of patience.”
Henry Taliaferro was neither apologizing nor making excuses for the endless parade of pint-sized customers, about ages two to 12, eager to spend a handful of pennies, a nickle, a dollar or whatever was within reason to “put on mom’s bill.”
Taliaferro merely was being a gentleman - one who handles his affairs and people with class, slighting no one, allowing no one to feel neglected.
Henry and the assistants managing Hannibal’s oldest surviving mom-and-pop store treat each child with great respect, a commodity always returned. At Taliaferro’s, everyone is on a first-name basis.
Taliaferro’s General Store is, at once, overstaffed and understaffed. Three adults man the tiny one-room store. And, just now, three adults on duty had no more time to chat than a check-out employee at a chain market during rush hour.
The customers are a philosophical lot.
“No, Jimmy, you’re three pennies to short, you’ll have to choose something else” is answered by a brief nod and closer inspection of a dizzying array of hard candies, bubble gum, chewing gum, lollipops, taffy, chocolate, gum drops, jujubees, peppermint - all under glass; soda pop in a container that opens from the top and salted munchies in packages hanging on racks.
Wonderful choices is what Taliaferro’s Grocery Store is all about to youngsters.
To Taliaferro’s neighbors, the folks who live along or near Ely Street, the locally famous market is a convenience shop without the smartness or modernization of similar shops along more traveled routes.
It’s the kind of store that’s within walking distance of everyone in the neighborhood, including kids, who often get sent to buy a last-minute item missed during a “big” grocery run into town.
It’s unique. Where but Taliaferro’s are you going to find a wooden counter so long it runs the length of the store, and so old its once square corners are now rounded from the touches of millions of hands?
Extracting a liquorice for one of his customers, Taliaferro noted there were many differences in the inventory since his father, Walter, opened the general store in 1922.
“The Tootsie Roll is the last penny candy,” he said. “Now there isn’t even penny bubble gum anymore.”
On the shelves behind him, rows of canned vegetables ranging from 49 cents to 89 cents had replaced the 10-cent canned vegetables of his father’s day. The day had passed when a customer could buy 6 pounds of navy beans for a quarter, Double Cola or Whistle Orange soda pop at 5 cents a bottle; when the clerk would be kept busy dishing off a pound a lard, cutting a 15-cent wedge of tobacco off a large log, stacking vinegar by the barrel.
Page 2 of 2 - “Now everything comes in cellophane,” Taliaferro said.